As business leaders look to enhance their operational efficiency and compliance processes, the adoption of cloud computing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping the landscape of regulated industries. These developments have left an indelible mark on how organizations in this sector think about adopting, developing, and evolving enterprise application strategies to support business transformation.
SAP has an important role to play in helping these organizations provide advanced analytics and reporting capabilities that can generate accurate and real-time insights, facilitate proactive decision-making, and demonstrate compliance to regulatory bodies. Few at SAP are better equipped to reflect on the challenges facing customers in this sector than Amy Spruill, Senior Vice President & Managing Director of U.S. Regulated Industries at SAP North America.
In this role, which she’s held since August 2023, Spruill oversees business operations, strategy, revenue performance, and customer relationships. Regulated organizations under her purview include federal, state, and local government agencies as well as higher education institutions and customers in aerospace and defense, utilities, and healthcare. Within SAP, Spruill previously held several leadership positions, including in insurance and capital markets, and media and professional services.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
ASUG: First off, congratulations on your appointment to head of regulated industries for SAP North America. What do you see as the key challenges facing regulated industries today?
Spruill: Some of the most pressing challenges involve navigating regulatory requirements while optimizing operational efficiency. A big component of addressing these issues revolves around ensuring data security and compliance. This is complicated by the fact that these organizations are changing key aspects of their operations to support their business transformation objectives. Beyond this, a myriad of regulations and industry standards are evolving. As regulated organizations look for ways to become more efficient, they must maintain strict levels of compliance while protecting key enterprise assets.
We are keenly aware of this at SAP. As a result, we're taking a multifaceted approach to addressing the issues decision-makers in this space face. SAP's cloud strategy provides tailored solutions that can streamline processes while allowing organizations to swiftly adapt to those changes and maintain operational efficiency.
Another critical challenge is the enhanced need for data security and privacy. This is a growing area of cybersecurity threats that we hear about, unfortunately, on a regular basis. As we address the needs of critical infrastructure—like utility providers—we have to ensure protection and resilience. With federal, state, and local government agencies modernizing systems to improve citizen services, SAP is also dedicated to upholding the highest standards of privacy and personal information protection.
This is why SAP is making major investments across a wide array of certifications, including: FedRAMP, DOD Impact Level 4 (IL 4) – for Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), Non-CUI, Non-Critical Mission Information, Non-National Security Systems; and IL 6 – for Classified SECRET, National Security Systems, which is right around the corner.
These enhanced security measures are delivered through SAP NS2 [National Security Services, Inc, an independent U.S. subsidiary of SAP that secures U.S-based SAP cloud solutions for highly regulated customers]. It is a never-ending process to continually refine our security protocols.
At ASUG’s recent utilities conference, these issues were discussed at length. It was interesting to hear that even the utilities have a hand in this area through government contracts or because they operate nuclear facilities.
Our plan is to work closely with our customers, understand their unique challenges based on each agency, and support them through our cloud strategy. We are focused on facilitating a smooth transition to cloud-based ERP while minimizing the disruption and maximizing the operational potential of the regulated industries overall in North America.
ASUG: Beyond the adoption of new technologies to enable greater cloud adoption, are your clients adapting to the cultural changes required with large-scale transformations?
Spruill: I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a group of federal customers, where they confirmed that the cultural aspect continues to be the biggest part of a large-scale transformation.
It is important to realize that each of these agencies and departments are in different stages of the journey. They all have different missions and areas of priorities. They also deal with different categories of information. National security and defense leaders are working with a wide range of data to support different priorities compared to civilian agencies that may be working with personal citizen, financial, health, and tax data.
That said, what they share is that they are all dealing with massive amounts of complex data. So, at the most basic level, there is a need to think strategically about where and how to clean and prepare data prior to migrating systems to cloud environments. It is a massive feat from a technological perspective.
SAP addresses these issues through a variety of services, including our SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) offerings. We are working with leaders to define a measured path to progress by preparing a roadmap that allows agencies to score quick wins along the way. We are making it clear that you don't have to do a large, massive migration all at once. You can focus on one area of the government organization, achieve success, and accumulate experience that builds on itself to achieve greater levels of progress.
That leads to the cultural aspect. At all large organizations, there can be resistance to change. The government is no different. It is also important to acknowledge the nature of the federal workforce. On the one hand, there are long-time government employees with tenure who are used to things working in a certain way. They coexist with a new generation of federal workers who are early in their careers and expect the “Apple” experience. They don't want the legacy systems. It's challenging and not totally unlike commercial organizations.
I believe that SAP’s role—and certainly my role—is to be an advocate for our customers. It is critical to ensure that different segments of our customers get what they need from SAP technology, whether they are working in the business (human resources, finance, supply chain) or Information Technology. We must play a positive and constructive role in helping the entire community of interest navigate the modernization and transformation process by bringing the best of SAP to ensure that we are meeting our commitments and service level agreements (SLAs).
The same dynamic is at work with our state and local government stakeholders.
ASUG: Sustainability was a big topic at our utilities conference earlier this year. How is SAP addressing the issue of sustainability with its customers?
Spruill: Sustainability is a core component of our strategy for regulated industries. Certainly, I’ve noticed it even more through SAP’s green ledger initiative, enabling organizations to manage their carbon footprints.
We have started to talk about this with leaders in large oil and gas organizations who have been customers for years. It helps them effectively manage their carbon footprints and adopt sustainable practices. And this bleeds over into utilities. In fact, I’ve connected my utilities leader—Michael Sullivan, National Vice President – Renewable Energy & Utilities at SAP—with some of the industry leaders I’ve worked with in the past to continue the conversation.
SAP has a global footprint, so we're able to share best practices proven to deliver on sustainability objectives in an operationally effective manner. SAP’s Sustainability Footprint Management solution, for instance, is a data exchange application that empowers companies to accurately measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions, which allows organizations to accelerate their journey towards achieving sustainability goals.
This is a high priority for SAP because it's a high priority for the regulated industries that we support.
ASUG: What are your goals with your new division as we head into 2024?
Spruill: In the short term, I'm focused on making our regulated industries organization more efficient while exploring ways to be as customer-focused as possible. The key objective is to help our customers accelerate the transition from legacy systems to modern cloud-based solutions as quickly and efficiently as possible while simultaneously improving their risk posture by enhancing data security and fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration across agencies.
Over the long term, I aim to establish SAP as a leading partner for regulated industries in North America, driving sustainable growth, and getting my organization in order so that we can support ongoing efforts to enable operational excellence and digital transformation.
Patricia Brown is ASUG’s Editorial Director.